What Does Incapacitated Mean in Elder Law & Estate Planning? (Part2)
Nov. 13, 2023
Elder law involves preparing for and addressing incapacity associated with injury, illness, disability, or aging. It is essential to understand the concept of incapacity applies to power of attorneys, wills and estate planning, and guardianship of an adult.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone else to make decisions for you.
A health care power of attorney allows you to select someone to make health care decisions for you. You can also give your agent instructions for the type of care you would like to receive, including end-of-life care.
With a power of attorney for property, you can give someone the authority to handle your financial affairs, such as paying your bills and managing your accounts.
Creating a valid power of attorney requires you to have mental capacity to understand the contents of the power of attorney. If you become incapacitated, a power of attorney allows you to preserve your autonomy, as you have selected a surrogate decision-maker to make decisions according to your wishes.
Depending on how you and your attorney structure your power of attorney, it could take effect only after you become incapacitated, once a physician determines that you cannot make decisions for yourself. However, many choose to allow trusted individuals authority as soon as they create a power of attorney, as this avoids having to wait for a physician’s determination of incapacity.
The court may appoint a guardian for those who become incapacitated without a power of attorney.
Guardianship of an Adult
Incapacity is a central concept in the guardianship of an adult. Guardianship of an adult is a court-supervised arrangement where one person assumes responsibility for an adult who is incapacitated.
The court must first determine that a person is incapacitated before permitting someone to become the legal guardian of an adult. In making this determination, the court relies on evidence from the individual’s physician.
According to the National Core Indicators Data Brief, those with significant autism, severe intellectual disability, or Down syndrome are more likely to have guardians.
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